Posts Tagged ‘SMART goals’

Goal Setting Success Factor # 5 – Maintaining momentum and developing resilience

April 18, 2011

 Well, here we are at the final part of Yara’s Goal Setting Mini Series. Hundreds of you have read the series (thank you to you all!) and I’m shortly going to be formatting the series as an e-book, which will be downloadable FREE from the Yara website at http://www.yaraconsulting.com

Anyway, let’s get on with it!

A critical part of achieving your goals is the ability to maintain momentum and motivation, and to build resilience in the face of challenges.

Here are 5 key factors that will make a difference to your ability to keep going until you’ve achieved your goals.

1. Retain focus

Last year, a group of friends and I climbed Goat Fell, the mountain on the Isle of Arran, just off the coast of the West of Scotland. Living in Ayrshire, we can see the top of this mountain every day from the mainland … as long as it’s not cloudy.

We took the ferry across to the island … at which point our goal was no longer the romantic, cloud-swathed view on the horizon … it was much nearer, and looked a lot bigger, steeper and rockier close up than it did from across the water. Some goals can be like that: scarier up close.

If you don’t have a strong reason for carrying on, you probably won’t.

As we started to climb, it was a case of watching the ground close to our feet to make sure we didn’t stumble over rocks and vegetation. However, we stopped often to look at the top of the mountain, and to check that we were on the right path. If we HADN’T checked where we were against our destination, we might have been so focussed on the ground beneath our feet that we could have wandered into the ferns, left the path and got a bit lost.

Whilst you’re working away on the tasks you need to undertake to get to your goals, look up to ensure that you’re still heading in the right direction … and that the goal hasn’t moved. Re-align wherever necessary, and keep moving forward.

2. Enjoy your journey

On that climb up Goat Fell, though, we didn’t tromp relentlessly straight to the top of the mountain. At various points we stopped for breath, looked back at the view, and marvelled at how far we’d come.

As you continue your way, it is VITAL that you pause from time to time, and allow yourself to reflect on your journey so far, on what you have learned, how you might need to re-align yourself on your way to the top, and to take from your past experience things that will carry you forward.

It’s also important, having achieved some of the ‘sub-goals’ along your way, to take the time to congratulate yourself on the fact that you are taking positive and deliberate strides in the right direction.

Depending on the goal that you’ve set yourself, you might be working towards it for some time … so even though you might have to undertake some tasks that aren’t your favourite thing (tax returns spring to mind), make sure your overall journey is one that you are happy to be on.

3. Know what derails you …

Self-awareness is a key area that comes into play here (about which, more in my series next month on 7 Leadership Skills EVERYONE must develop!)

Think back on your past experience, and consider carefully the times when you had been enthusiastically working towards a goal, and something or someone had thrown you off course. What WAS that something or someone?

Frequent responses to this are:

· Other people’s negativity

· Lack of confidence that you can (or deserve to) achieve

 · Frustration that things aren’t moving quickly enough

· Insurmountable barriers

Thinking about the things that have derailed you in the past, consider further:

 · If you gave up on something, how strong was your reason why in the first place? Is this really the right goal for you? (Think about this VERY carefully – no excuses!)

 · Were your fears based on fact … or your assumptions? How will you overcome them?

· How far are you prepared to let other people’s negative comments or actions put you off your goal? How will you limit their impact?

· How will you build your confidence and overcome your reservations?

· If you really do come up against a barrier that you cannot overcome, consider carefully the reasons why you had been working towards this goal. It will almost certainly be possible to find an alternative goal that fulfils the same need.

It’s crucial also that you recognise the signs of when you are starting to slump, and bring these from the subconscious to the conscious. If you can catch them early on, you can take action to turn yourself around and get back on track. Do you start talking to yourself in a negative way? Do little things really annoy you? Do you find yourself snapping at other drivers on the road, or at your kids? Do you find yourself faffing around and doing anything BUT the tasks required to meet your goal?

Learn also to pinpoint the causes of these … and take steps to avoid or limit them. This might mean thinking about your conversations with friends and family: if they pull you down when you talk about your goals, steer the conversation onto something else. I’ve known a few people who were so negative that I just started to try to avoid them altogether!

Bear in mind also, that your darkest hour is 60 minutes long…it’s not for ever, so take heart.

4 … and how to motivate yourself

So what motivates you? What cheers you up when you’re feeling low? Make a list and keep it to hand.

As soon as you feel your motivation levels drop, don’t wallow or try to soldier on regardless – refer to your list (if you need to) and DO SOMETHING to pick yourself up: go for a run, play the piano, play with your kids, walk the dog, phone a friend – or whatever.

It’s important that, while you are in a positive frame of mind, you begin to develop strategies to help you through tough times. When you’re IN the tough times, you might not be in the frame of mind to be able to help yourself.

A significant amount of academic research has been done on the impact of music on motivation and mood. Choose some motivating and uplifting pieces of music and have a playlist on your iPod: My favourites include Labi Siffre’s ‘Something Inside So Strong’, the ‘Indiana Jones’ theme tune and Van Halen’s ‘Jump!’.

Pick whatever gives you a lift, and put your playlist together when you are in a positive frame of mind.

At times when you’re feeling flat, discipline yourself to focus on past times when you have achieved something, or been particularly successful. Doing so will awaken similar positive feelings to the ones you felt at the time.

Some of this might take a bit of effort: often we quite like having a bit of a moan or wallowing in self pity (I’ve been there, just the same as everyone else!). It’s important though, that you refocus to a positive frame of mind quickly, and keep going.

5. Look after yourself

This might sound really obvious, but no one wants to get to their goal a burnt-out wreck working 18 hours a day on the verge of a breakdown. What kind of success is that?! For goodness’ sake look after yourself.

Stress is one of the biggest causes of work-related ill-health. Take time out to reflect on what you’re doing, what you’ve learned so far and where you’re going. Make sure you take time to relax

 “But Anna,” I hear you say, “I‘m so busy that I don’t have time to relax!”. Make time. Your health is important.

If you’re NOT looking after yourself, you’re not functioning as effectively as you might, and you’re not doing anyone any favours – least of all yourself.

AND FINALLY … When you have reached your goal, and are rewarding yourself and allow yourself to celebrate your success, remember to ‘put something back’. Donate to a charity. Mentor, coach or just help someone. Volunteer for something. Why? Because it’s a good thing to do … and sometimes that’s reason enough.

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Goal Setting Success Factor # 4 – Plan it and DO something!

April 9, 2011

Actually managing your goals… and managing yourself to achieve those goals is likely to take a bit of time and a bit of self discipline. Yes, it would be great if we could just daydream, visualise and focus on our future and it would all magically fall into place, but actually, we need to get off our butts and DO something in order for anything to happen at all.

If you’ve given consideration to my Goal Setting Success Factors 1 – 3, you’ll already have a strong reason why you want to achieve your goals, and you’ll have a clear understanding of the skills you have and the skills that you need to do it. 

These are very strong foundations as you consider what exactly you’re going to need to DO in order to achieve your goals.

Here are my top 5 tips and factors to consider as you start to take action towards your goals.
 
Tip # 1 – be prepared to be patient
We live in an instant, push-button, get-it-now society. EVERYTHING happens fast – hey, if we’re kept for more than 2 minutes in the queue at MacDonalds we start to get fidgety and cross.

Achieving your goals is not like selecting a chocolate bar in a vending machine, putting in your money, pressing a button and ‘voila!’ there it is.  If your goal is really what you want, it’s worth making a bit of effort.

In his book Principle Centred Leadership, Steven Covey talks about the ‘law of the farm’. You plant something, you tend it, and in its season it’ll bear fruit. You DON’T plant a seed and expect to find a tree there the next day.

Challenge yourself to take action towards your goals. Don’t lose heart if it doesn’t happen for you overnight, though: remember that perseverance is part of achievement.
 
Tip# 2 – learn how to plan

It’s important that you plan how you’re going to approach your goal – even if you’re naturally a bit disorganised (like me) it’s important that you do this, and don’t just dive on in… and potentially miss out something vital.

First, you’ll need to break your goal down into smaller chunks (the ‘journey of the thousand miles beginning with the first step’, as it were). To define these smaller ‘sub-goals’, it’s usually easier to work backwards from your main goal than to try to guess at what the first step should be.

For example, if your goal is to be a published author, what else will you need to consider on your way to that goal? Is  your work formatted in a way that editors want? Have you had it proof read? Will you need to find a literary agent? How will you approach and promote yourself to publishers?

From here, you might say that one of your sub-goals is to find a literary agent. So now, you need to consider how you might do that. Perhaps the one of the first tasks you need to get your teeth into is researching literary agents, and working out how to make your pitch.

When you’ve decided what these smaller steps will be, you need to turn them into SMART goals… yes, THIS is where that whole SMART thing comes into its own, and not before!

·         The goal needs to be Specific (e.g. “I need to find a literary agent in the USA, who deals with children’s authors)
·         It needs to be measurable (e.g. “I only need the one agent, thanks… but I might need another one if I want to be published in Europe”)
·         Aligned with your overall goal (“Is getting an agent aligned with my goal of getting published? Yep”)
·         Realistic (“It’s a challenge, but can I do it?”)
·         Time bound (“WHEN will I do this?”)

That last one – Time Bound – is the biggest challenge.  If you don’t have some sort of timescale, there’s a danger that nothing will actually get done, so push yourself to set some deadlines.
 
Tip # 3 – be prepared to be focused
If your goals are worth it, they deserve to be kept in focus. Broadly speaking, stick to your plan, and work fairly methodically through it.

Don’t work slavishly through it, though – remember that the journey is, for many people, as important as the destination.

Opportunities that you hadn’t considered might present themselves along your way, and it’s important that you’re able to make the most of these. However… beware of ‘bright shiny objects’ that might appear to be opportunities, but can actually be distractions, taking you away from your main goal.

When these things present themselves, weigh up carefully whether or not they are actually helping your towards your goal (in which case, make the most of them) or whether they are taking you away from your goal… in which case, leave them alone.

When I started out in training and development, I was offered a PR contract (something I used to do in the past). The fee would have been good, and I’d have been able to do the job, and at first it seemed like easy money. However, my goal was to build my training and development business! How was doing someone else’s PR going to help towards that goal? It wasn’t! I politely withdrew from the contract.

The strange thing was, while I was briefly working on that PR job, I felt really uneasy and frustrated because I wasn’t working on my own goals. Sometimes, there’s a lot to be said for listening to your gut: if it feels wrong, it probably is.
 
Tip # 4 – learn to prioritise and do the right things
Once you’ve broken your goals down into sub-goals, you’ll begin to arrive at something that looks like a to-do list.
Just a quick question – how do you prioritise the tasks on your list? Really??

Most people will head straight for the tasks that they like doing, that are quick to finish, that someone else has told them they ought to do, etc., etc. Prioritising in this haphazard way, though, can lead to the sort of day when you’ve been busy for hours… but achieved nothing.

According to Steven Covey (and I’d agree!) the only two factors on which we should prioritise are the urgency and the importance of the task.  I have a to-do list that’s split into four sections:

A. Urgent and important
B. Important, but not urgent
C. Urgent but not important
D. Not urgent and not important

The A section containts things that I really need to get done this week. If I don’t do them, I’m going to set my ‘goal plan’ back.

The B section is for longer-term projects: writing an e-book, developing a new training course, that sort of thing. They’re important, but I don’t need to do them right now. I DO, though, break these into sub-goals, which are on my A list… I don’t want that vital B list to drift on and not get done because I’m fire-fighting in the A section!

The C tasks are less important to ME, but might be important to someone else. In the UK, we had to fill out a census recently: if we didn’t complete it on time, we risked a £1000 fine!  Things on your C list can be time wasters if you spend too long on them. If they are urgent, get them over with and move on as quickly as you can.

The D section contains tasks that really don’t matter. I might want to download a few MP3 clips, for example, or buy a couple of things on Ebay. The question is… should these things be on my to-do list at all? In some cases (like my purchases here) I still want to do them BUT I’m not going to waste time on these tasks when the A and B tasks are waiting in my in-tray.

Give this a try – my productivity increased significantly when I split up my to-do list like this.  Another thing worth doing is getting hold of Brian Tracy’s book ‘Eat That Frog’ , which is great on making the most of your time.

Whatever you do, don’t fall into this trap “In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia”.
 
Tip #5 – just get on with it!
Many people, sadly, will get as far as Goal Setting Success Factor #3 and stop. Why? Because it’s fun to daydream about our successful futures, to think about building our confidence and making an impact, and to think about the skills that we have… skills that could take us to the top.

When it comes to taking action, however, many people bottle out. PLEASE don’t let that be you. Take your aspirations, dreams and goals, your skills and your growing confidence and TAKE ACTION.

About 500 years BC, the founder of Buddhism wrote “There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth… not going all the way, and not starting.”

Step out bravely. Do something.  Just make a start.

Goal Setting Success Factor # 3: Develop an Enquiring Mind

April 5, 2011

Achieving your goal is going to involve you building on your existing strengths, learning new skills and growing in new directions. If it doesn’t, you’ve probably set your sights too low.

This might mean many things: maybe it’s a question of developing your confidence; perhaps you have all the skills you need to achieve your goal … your problem is developing the self discipline to apply yourself, plan your route forward and get on with it! For someone else, wanting to achieve a lifetime’s ambition of running a marathon, say, it could be the challenge of doing MORE – pushing oneself to run further and further each week until the goal is reached.

Organisations need to also bear in mind that strategies for growth MUST involve developing individuals across the organisation and giving them a strong reason ‘why’ (our Goal Setting Success Factor #1) … but that’s a subject for another post.

So – what do you need to learn? And how? Here are 5 key areas:

1. Develop a positive mindset to learning, as part of your journey.

This is vital. As you journey towards your goal, you’ll constantly discover new things that need to be learned, new skills, behaviours and attitudes that need to be acquired. Learning is positive. It is the road to development and growth. It is NOT a remedial measure to correct some sort of personal defect.

It’s absolutely CRITICAL that you develop this attitude towards learning – otherwise you could fall into the trap of being overwhelmed by what you think you DON’T know, rather than actively looking to learn and develop the skills you NEED.

Remember – we never stop learning. Even experts in their field continue to learn, develop and grow.

2. Don’t be modest – consider what you’re good at.

Take stock of yourself – what are your strengths? What do you enjoy doing and what are you good at? There will be plenty of things that spring to mind immediately, but you may need to ask trusted friends for their thoughts too, as they might have recognised some strengths in you that you weren’t aware of.

There WILL be skills which you think of as ordinary and ‘anyone-can-do’ which are in fact unique to you. Find out what these are. Consider how you might leverage them to achieve your goal.

3. ‘Mind the gap’: identify your gaps in knowledge, and areas for development and growth.

This is often easier said than done, and it’s ESSENTIAL (I can’t stress that enough) that you do this in a positive frame of mind and as a step forward towards your goals.

What do you need to learn in order to achieve your goals? Again, some of these things will be fairly straightforward to identify – if I’m going to be a successful photographer, I need to not only be good at taking pictures, but know how to promote and sell my work, how to manage my finances and so on.

Be aware, though, of areas of ‘unconscious incompetence’ – things that you don’t know you don’t know. There are things you can do to try to tease some of these out, but there will always be ‘Doh!’ moments when you become aware of one of these.

Be thankful that this ‘gap’ is now known to you – don’t waste time kicking yourself about not having realised it before.

4. Learn how to learn – a crucial life skill.

Let’s face it – you could waste a fortune on training courses, coaching sessions, internet information products and so on (somewhat ironic that, as a trainer and coach, I’m telling you that).

Once you’ve identified gaps in your knowledge, you’ll need to give some thought as to how you might address these. In terms of thought processes, try to remain positive and ‘solution focused’, i.e. say to yourself, “I’m going to improve my marketing skills” and NOT “I’m rubbish at marketing, so I have to get better.”

Think laterally: who do you know that you could ask? What connections can you make from other industries / walks of life? Where can you find free information?

Consider also – at what point do you leverage the skills of others, and use THEM to fill in your gaps (hiring a book-keeper, for example, or getting someone else to build your website)?

5. Face your fears: in the words of Mr T, “Quit your jibber jabber – get some nuts!”

Learning new things inevitably means pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Just grasp the nettle and get on with it: don’t make excuses or try to talk yourself out of trying something new.

Susan Jeffers’ book ‘Feel the fear and Do It Anyway’ is a classic on this point. At the risk of sounding clichéd … JUST DO IT! And don’t worry if it doesn’t work out perfectly first time – it’s all part of the learning experience.

So there we are – five key aspects of learning and honing the skills you need to achieve your goals. Take a positive approach to learning. Boldly assess your own abilities, and the areas in which you need to develop (some of which may already be strengths).

Be creative in how you learn. Don’t be afraid to try something new, and do something different. Learn. Grow. Fly.

Goal Setting Success Factor #2: Self Awareness and Self Confidence

March 26, 2011

2. Self awareness and self confidence: recognise who you need to become to achieve your goals.

Whether your goals are SMART or not, the stark fact of the matter is that if you don’t believe that you have it in you to achieve your goals…it’s ‘game over’ from the very beginning.

Developing a healthy self confidence (by that, I mean a realistic and positive sense of self, not arrogance or an ego the size of a planet) is crucial to your being able to achieve your goals.

Here are three techniques that will help:

Visualisation
Visualisation is  extremely useful – being able to capture in your imagination what the best-possible-you looks and feels like, the sort of life you lead and the sort of people you associate with.

Anyone who’s come across ‘The Secret’ will know what I mean here – this is more than daydreaming about how you want to be; this is really focussing on the details. In the words of Alfred Montapert,  “To accomplish great things we must first dream, then visualise, then plan… believe… act!”
 
‘Mask of the Role Model’
A second technique is a little like the ‘fake it till you make it’ approach. I prefer to think of it as putting on the ‘mask of the role model’.

Let me explain what I mean: the best boss I ever had was a lady called Lesley, whose confidence, approach and way of working with people truly inspired me. For YEARS when I was in a business situation in which I felt out of my depth, I would think to myself “Now, what would Lesley do?” …and take that course of action. By acting the part of a confident individual, I was treated as though I WAS a confident individual by those I met; and gradually, I grew into the part.
 
Self Talk
It’s often said that we talk to ourselves in a way that we just wouldn’t take from anyone else, and we can sometimes become our own ‘confidence saboteur’.

What do you say when you speak to yourself? Make sure it’s positive and self affirming… which is often easier said than done.

There’s a BIG psychological difference when you make a mistake, say, between thinking to yourself “You stupid idiot! What did you do that for? For goodness sake, how hopeless are you?!”  and saying “OK, how hard can this be? I’ve seen someone else do it, so I’m bound to be able to do it….”  

Learn to talk yourself up, not down.
 
These three techniques – and other confidence-building methods – are vital to help you achieve your goals. SMART and action-orientated though those goals may be, what’s going on in your HEAD will have a profound impact on what goes on in your life and career.
 
Watch this space for Goal Setting Success Factor number 3 in the next few days!

Goal setting – why SMART goals are not enough

March 21, 2011

Let’s face it: most people don’t bother to set goals unless they have to as part of a business process of some sort. If you DO set goals…congratulations…you’re one of a very select few.

People who DO set goals are probably aware of making those goals ‘SMART’, that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant (to values, organisational goals, etc.) and Time bound. Without these parameters to propel you into action, ‘goals’ are likely to remain as daydreams or aspirations.

SMART thinking around your goals is valuable…however, it doesn’t go far enough.

There are five key factors which, if understood and implemented will MASSIVELY increase your chances of achieving your goals. Here’s the first one…

1. Understanding why: knowing the goals and motivations behind your goals

So you’ve set your goal, and you want to be the next Chief Executive of Global Incorporated. Why?

 It’s important that you ask yourself this question and understand the motivations behind whatever goal you have set yourself.

There are two reasons for this: the first is that you need to have a strong reason WHY you’re doing this so that, when times get tough, you can focus on this and keep moving forward, safe in the knowledge that you have a purpose. “I’m going to show that person who wrote me off as a kid!” can be a strong motivator, as can commitments to family and causes, or the desire to leave some sort of legacy or make a difference. What is it for you?

Secondly, understanding the ‘WHY’ will help you to realign your goals if you’re prevented from achieving them for some reason.

Years ago, I thought I wanted to be an air stewardess. The fact that my dad had had a long and successful career as cabin crew and travelled the world undoubtedly influenced this. There were two significant drawbacks: 1) I tend to get travel sick on long haul flights and b) I didn’t get past the interview stage.

Having fallen at this first hurdle, I had to consider the options: to find a mentor, attend training courses and re-apply until I achieved my goal of securing a job as airline cabin crew (and then face a career of vomiting uncontrollably on flights of more than 6 hours or so)…or evaluate carefully WHY I was looking at that job in the first place.

Taking the latter path, I realised that what I REALLY wanted was to be able to travel, see new places, meet new people, experience new cultures and so on.

My career as a trainer and coach has taken me all over Europe and beyond and I’ve been privileged to meet and work with people from a wide variety of cultures and countries. Do I ever look back with regret that I didn’t make it to cabin crew. Absolutely not!

Look closely at your own long-term goal. Why are you doing this? Really…why??

Watch out for my next blog post: Goal Setting success factor number 2 – Self Awareness.